I really enjoyed our “Deep Dive” on day #2, the extended activity where we explored the idea of school as a system, and worked from this axiom: Our systems are running perfectly! They’re doing exactly what we’d designed them to do. Unfortunately, often, what they’re doing is part of the problem, but we can’t fix the problem because all the pieces that serve to support the system aren’t clear to us. So what we’ve got to do is get a clear picture of what our issue is, and all the things that influence it.
My first challenge was to understand that I already had a sense of what the answer was. My issue was Student Engagement, and I had phrased my question “how do we improve Student Engagement through meaningful tasks?”. The facilitators challenged me on that; if you go in with an answer already, you’re missing the point. Peel it back another layer, just look at all the structures, processes, parameters, rituals, history, politics and culture that might, in some way, influence student engagement in the classroom. As a result, you can see my scribble on the map I created: It was incredibly hard work to put aside your view, and just explore the possibilities. All of us are fixers, we diagnose issues quickly and jump to problem solving mode. This session was a gift, we explored a concept deeply, with facilitation, for 3 hours, and then laid over top of our map a tool to think about and understand how our system might be working: We used Barry Oshry’s Total System Theory concept of top, middle and bottom, and developed ideas about how our system has coherence, where we might have leverage to interrupt the system, and how each of our players might be making sense of the challenge.
It was a wonderful and intense “deep dive” into schools as a system. At the end they asked us to complete the phrase “when I came, I thought I knew…now I know…”
For me, I thought I took the time to examine deeply and understand before I jumped to solution mode. I’d always appreciate DeBono’s work on expert problem solvers. Now I know there’s a whole world of layers underneath we rarely get a glimpse of, which could really help us with system change.